The best books that portray death and loss honestly and hopefully

Why am I passionate about this?

I lost my marriage. I lost my dad to cancer, and my mom to Alzheimer’s Disease (and wrote a memoir about it). Along the way, I lost my sense of superiority and entitlement. I gained the ability to laugh at myself and trust God for everything. I found that I was not as important as I had tacitly assumed. I’ve learned Jesus’s words are true: “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” When I see this depicted well in a book, I think, “Thank God for writers who will tell me the truth.” Today, I’m a fiction book coach with a goal of helping writers tell the whole awful, glorious truth.

I wrote...

Bringing Mom Home: How Two Sisters Moved Their Mother Out of Assisted Living to Care For Her Under One Amazingly Large Roof

By Susan M Soesbe,

Book cover of Bringing Mom Home: How Two Sisters Moved Their Mother Out of Assisted Living to Care For Her Under One Amazingly Large Roof

What is my book about?

Some years ago, my sister and I began to notice that our elderly mother was sort of... off. She couldn't pay her bills or even get to the toilet anymore. Assisted living didn't render enough assistance. There was only one thing left to do: bring her home. The practical aspects of dementia care turned out to be less difficult than the challenge to love and honor. How could I love this new version of Mom? Did I really just want her to hurry up and die? The horrible truth I had to face was not Mom's disease and impending death, but my own lack of love.

Bringing Mom Home reveals my shortcomings as a daughter and a Christian, while showing how God used pain and loss to change me from the inside out.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of In This House of Brede

Susan M Soesbe Why did I love this book?

I love this story because it portrays people choosing to die to themselves in order to live for God.

These Benedictine sisters are not running away from the world. Each woman faces her past, present, and future through the lens of devotion to God. Centering their lives around worship has cost them dearly but, as I read, I began to grasp its worth with greater clarity. I’ve seen myself that believers in Christ who die to themselves, paradoxically, seem more alive.

This House of Brede made me reflect on the concept of losing your life to save it. It reminded me that losing my life is tragically inevitable, but saving it is gloriously possible.

By Rumer Godden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In This House of Brede as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

By the author of Black Narcissus and The River

'Rumer Godden's novels have a timeless shimmer' GUARDIAN

'One hundred years after her birth, Rumer Godden's novels still pulse with life' MATTHEW DENNISON, TELEGRAPH

'Her craftsmanship is always sure' NEW YORK TIMES

'The motto was Pax but the word was set in a circle of thorns. Peace, but what a strange peace, made of unremitting toil and effort . . .'

Bruised by tragedy, Philippa Talbot leaves behind a successful career with the civil service for a new calling: to join an enclosed order of Benedictine nuns. In this small community…

Book cover of The Hiding Place

Susan M Soesbe Why did I love this book?

This is the true story of Corrie ten Boom, a fiftyish Dutch lady who would have been happy repairing watches and serving people until she died at home. But the Nazis took over. She began working with the Resistance and ended up in Ravensbrück.

The Hiding Place portrays the horrors of the concentration camp frankly, but ten Boom and her co-authors take care to show the hand of God in Corrie’s life. I was deeply impressed by Corrie’s sister Betsie, who felt compassion for the Nazis because of their deep depravity. Corrie strove unsuccessfully to have the same attitude. Much later, she was able to forgive the very guard who had beaten her gentle sister.

Corrie suffered cruelly and lost most of her family, but came away with a message of hope and forgiveness.

By Corrie Ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, John Sherrill , Tim Foley (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Hiding Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, 11, and 12.

What is this book about?

The True Story of a Real-Life Hero

It's World War II. Darkness has fallen over Europe as the Nazis spread hatred, fear and war across the globe. But on a quiet city corner in the Netherlands, one woman fights against the darkness.

In her quiet watchmaking shop, she and her family risk their lives to hide Jews, and others hunted by the Nazis, in a secret room, a "hiding place" that they built in the old building.

One day, however, Corrie and her family are betrayed. They're captured and sent to the notorious Nazi concentration camps to die. Yet even…

Book cover of The Death Of Ivan Ilych

Susan M Soesbe Why did I love this book?

It’s not possible that Tolstoy died and lived to tell about it, but that's what this book feels like.

As Ivan Ilych’s illness progresses, the reader sees how shallow his relationships are, and how fruitless is his striving to “get ahead.” As I read this book, I felt the vast chasm between the living and the dying, how alone Ivan is in his suffering. Ivan Ilych is no hero: he is an everyman. He squarely faces the pointlessness of his life, and ultimately throws off the things of no importance.

Through his experience I anticipated my own death, and felt how important it must be to live my life remembering that all the stupid stuff doesn’t matter. What does matter is my relationships with God and with other humans. Everyone who expects to die someday should read this book.

By Leo Tolstoy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Death Of Ivan Ilych as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, first published in 1886, is a novella by Leo Tolstoy, one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s. "Usually classed among the best examples of the novella", The Death of Ivan Ilyich tells the story of the sufferings and death of a high-court judge from a terminal illness in 19th-century Russia.

Book cover of Silas Marner

Susan M Soesbe Why did I love this book?

Silas Marner is my favorite fictional wounded human. His warm heart is cruelly rejected, he is betrayed and besmirched, thrown away, and exiled. Is it any wonder he becomes a gold-hoarding hermit? Who could read this book without longing to see him avenged?

But the author, instead of avenging Silas, takes away his gold and gives him a child instead. The child forges a link between Silas and his community, and is a channel of healing. Silas Marner makes me cry every time I read it. Even though it is a work of fiction, I feel this book perfectly portrays the awful mercy of God in taking away our Precious to give us what we truly need.

By George Eliot,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Silas Marner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Gold! - his own gold - brought back to him as mysteriously as it had been taken away!

Falsely accused of theft, Silas Marner is cut off from his community but finds refuge in the village of Raveloe, where he is eyed with distant suspicion. Like a spider from a fairy-tale, Silas fills fifteen monotonous years with weaving and accumulating gold. The son of the wealthy local Squire, Godfrey Cass also seeks an escape from his past. One snowy winter, two events change the course of their lives: Silas's gold is stolen and, a child crawls across his threshold.


Book cover of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Susan M Soesbe Why did I love this book?

Edward Tulane is a vain, selfish, coldhearted toy rabbit. And, except for the toy rabbit part, I am Edward Tulane. That’s why I needed this book.

Whilst the family is on the Queen Mary, Edward is cast overboard, like Jonah. Outside the bosom of his family, Edward is largely unloved and disrespected. Through many trials and tribulations, he is reunited with his family. It’s classic Odyssey territory, except that Edward’s trials broaden his perspective and enable him to appreciate – and, yes, love – those who love him.

Edward may be merely a toy rabbit, but he stands in for all of us who need to die in order to live.

By Kate DiCamillo, Bagram Ibatoulline (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

The Incredible Journey meets The Mouse and His Child, an enchanting tale that begs to be read aloud.

The magical story of the adventures of a lost toy rabbit from a New York Times bestselling author, twice winner of the Newbery Medal. Abilene loves her blue china rabbit, but Edward Tulane is extremely vain and only loves himself. On a voyage from New York to London, Edward falls overboard and from there finds himself on an amazing journey. He travels with tramps, works as a scarecrow, comforts a dying child ... and finally learns what it is to truly love.

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Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

Book cover of Ballad for Jasmine Town

Molly Ringle Author Of Sage and King

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Novelist Editor Sociolinguist HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) Good witch

Molly's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A human child raised by the fae is an uncommon thing. But Rafi was such a child.

Now grown, half-fae but mortal, he lingers on the edge of human society in Miryoku, a nearby town sharing a border with fae territory. He doesn’t want to join the human world properly; he just wants to play music with a local cover band and avoid the cruelest members of his fae family.

Then, he meets Roxana, and his world shifts. She’s a human metalworking witch, up for a friendly fling with Rafi before she and her twelve-year-old daughter move away from Miryoku at summer’s end. But Rafi and Roxana grow too fond of each other to let go easily, and worse still, they soon become enmeshed in a much larger storm of prejudice and violence between fae and humans.

Ballad for Jasmine Town

By Molly Ringle,

What is this book about?

A law-abiding metalworking witch and a form-shifting half-fae musician embark on a secret romance, but soon become caught in escalating tensions between fae and humans that threaten their hometown. The second story after the popular Lava Red Feather Blue comes alive in Ballad for Jasmine Town.

The town of Miryoku has ocean views, fragrant jasmine vines, and a thriving arts scene, including a popular nineties cover band. It also sits on the verge, sharing a border with fae territory, a realm of both enchantments and dangers.

Rafi has been unusual all his life: a human born to a fae mother,…

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